Pulitzer Prize Winner Hedrick Smith’s new book is an extraordinary achievement, an eye-opening account of how, over the past four decades, the American Dream has been dismantled and we became two Americas. Smith knits together political and economic developments and significant shifts in American capitalism under the last six presidents and combines penetrating profiles of corporate and political leaders with close-up reporting on the experience of average Americans in an interdisciplinary work that offers excellent reading and teaching material for American history, political science, economics, public policy, business, journalism and government courses.
In his bestselling The Russians, Smith took millions of readers inside the Soviet Union. In The Power Game, he took us inside Washington’s corridors of power. Now Smith takes us across America to show how seismic changes, sparked by a sequence of landmark political and economic decisions, have transformed America. As only a veteran reporter can, Smith fits the puzzle together, starting with Lewis Powell’s provocative memo that triggered a political rebellion that dramatically altered the landscape of power in Washington from then until today.
This is a book full of surprises and revelations—the accidental beginnings of the 401(k) plan, with disastrous economic consequences for many; the major policy changes that began under Jimmy Carter; how the New Economy disrupted America’s engine of shared prosperity, the “virtuous circle” of growth; and how America lost the title of “Land of Opportunity.” Smith documents the transfer of $6 trillion in middle-class wealth from home-owners to banks even before the housing boom went bust, and how the U.S. policy tilt favoring the rich is stunting America’s economic growth.
This book is essential reading for all of us who want to understand America today, or why average Americans are struggling to keep afloat. Smith reveals how pivotal laws and policies were altered while the public wasn’t looking, how Congress often ignores public opinion, why moderate politicians got shoved to the sidelines, and how Wall Street often wins politically by hiring over 1,400 former government officials as lobbyists.
Smith talks to a wide range of people, telling the stories of Americans high and low. From political leaders such as Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and Martin Luther King, Jr., to CEOs such as Al Dunlap, Bob Galvin, and Andy Grove, to heartland Middle Americans such as airline mechanic Pat O’Neill, software systems manager Kristine Serrano, small businessman John Terboss, and subcontractor Eliseo Guardado, Smith puts a human face on how middle-class America and the American Dream have been undermined.
This magnificent work of history and reportage is filled with the penetrating insights, provocative discoveries, and great empathy of a master journalist. Finally, Smith offers ideas for restoring America’s great promise and reclaiming the American Dream.
FROM THE PROLOGUE
“History often has hidden beginnings. There is no blinding flash of light in the sky to mark a turning point, no distinctive mushroom cloud signifying an atomic explosion that will forever alter human destiny. Often a watershed is crossed in some gradual and obscure way so that most people do not realize that an unseen shift has moved them into a new era, reshaping their lives, the lives of their generation, and the lives of their children, too. Only decades later do historians, like detectives, sift through the confusing strands of the past and discover a hitherto unknown pregnant beginning.”
Read the rest of the prologue here.
PRAISE FOR WHO STOLE THE AMERICAN DREAM?
“…one heck of a story told by one of the great journalists of our time.”
—Dan Froomkin, Huffington Post
“Hedrick Smith has done it again! Who Stole the American Dream? provides a readable and comprehensive account of how Americans have been robbed of our dream of a broad middle class over the past forty years. It is essential reading.”
—Jay Lorsch, Harvard Business School
“[Smith’s] account is informed by the lively eye and ear of a journalist, as when he details for example the cascading impact of the 95th Congress in 1978. That session is one he says many political analysts overlook despite being ‘one of the most pivotal in our modern political history.’ Influenced by the rising power of big business lobbying, it was the 95th Congress, Smith says, that made seminal changes in the economy’s structure…”
“Here now is the terrible story of how the so-called New Economy destroyed the many credos and practices that once pushed and prodded the American way of life. Hedrick Smith gives names, dates and actions behind the transformation from a corporate and financial culture driven by shared wealth to one of CEO/ownership greed. Read it and weep with profound sadness and then scream with red-faced anger. It seems almost too tame to call it simply a book. It is an indictment that is as stinging, stunning and important as any ever handed down by a grand jury.”
—Jim Lehrer, longtime PBS NewsHour anchor
“Remarkably comprehensive and coherent analysis of and prescriptions for America’s contemporary economic malaise… Fascinating detail…Brilliant analysis… one of the best recent analyses of the contemporary woes of American economics and politics.”